Beliefnet
NEW YORK, Oct. 22 (AP) - Rep. Rick Lazio feasts on kosher pizza, marches in a Korean parade and frequents Irish events. Hillary Rodham Clinton sings at black churches, dances at a Polish festival and listens to salsa at the Puerto Rican Day parade.

But with less than three weeks until the election, one community says it has been overlooked by both Senate candidates: Arab-Americans feel they are being ignored because the candidates fear a backlash from some 1.6 million Jewish voters.

Politicians often cater to the most conservative elements of the Jewish community, said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. And that leaves his community - which numbers around 300,000 in New York state - feeling snubbed and disillusioned.

``It's a mistake on their part. Not only is the Arab-American community quite large, we're also growing. We're a part of this society and they're basically turning us away from every election,'' said Susan Adely, 27, a graduate student from Yonkers.

Twelve years ago, Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis openly rejected Arab-American leaders' endorsement, saying it would alienate the Jewish vote.

Arab-American leaders say adopting such a position in a country with less than a 50 percent voter turnout ignores a community that is becoming increasingly politicized and could prove to be a pivotal voting bloc.

A recent poll by Zogby International, headed by pollster John Zogby, James Zogby's brother, shows 86 percent of Arab-Americans nationally are registered to vote and 89 percent plan to vote on Nov. 7. Similarly, 89 percent of Jewish adults say they are likely to vote.

In addition to such broad issues as health care, education and taxes, Arab-Americans are likely to be concerned with a candidate's position on racial profiling, secret evidence, international economic sanctions and a just solution to the Middle East crisis, including the status of Jerusalem.

Some Arab-Americans believe the New York Senate race reflects a national trend - blind support for Israel in a quest for Jewish votes, with little or no attention to Arab-Americans.

Among New York state's Jewish voters, 52 to 54 percent say they support the peace process, pollster John Zogby said. Yet the candidates try to outdo each other in catering to the perceived monolithic Jewish vote.

Both Lazio and Clinton have disavowed controversial contacts with Yasser Arafat and his wife Soha. While both have refuse to take a position on clemency for Jonathan Pollard - an American imprisoned as an Israeli spy - Clinton recently intervened to block Pollard's proposed transfer to a tougher prison, a position Lazio supported.

Both candidates also criticized the Clinton administration's decision to abstain rather than veto a U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning Israel's use of deadly force against Palestinian demonstrators.

During a forum sponsored by the newspaper Jewish Week, Hillary Clinton was asked about her embrace of Soha Arafat after the latter publicly accused Israelis of using poison gas. While not calling it a mistake, she said she wouldn't make the trip if she had it to do over, and had ``certainly learned'' a lesson from the controversy.

``I want people to know that as the senator from New York, I would look out for and defend the interests of New Yorkers and I would never be in a situation like that,'' Clinton said.

Last week, Clinton and Lazio both addressed a pro-Israeli demonstration but did not appear at pro-Palestinian rallies.

``People at the pro-Israeli demonstration had signs saying: 'Expel the Arabs!' and 'Death to Arabs.' How could they stand by signs like that, in favor of that?'' asked Adely, the graduate student.

``As an Arab-American, it's very humiliating to realize that the people who are trying to represent you are condemning your own race for carrying rocks in the face of machine guns,'' said Amira Solh of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

Both Solh and Adely said they would vote for third party candidates for Senate and president. So will Lucy Mair, Middle East program coordinator at the Center for Economic and Social Rights.

``It's really pathetic when candidates for senator have to distance themselves from a major U.S. ally - Arafat - someone the U.S. has engaged in peace negotiations with,'' she said.

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